Brandon Gibbs of Dinwiddie County is joined by his folks as he navigates the world of potential matrimony with his long-distance love in Russia
Kristi K. Higgins
| The Progress-Index
DINWIDDIE — Ever wonder what it would be like to star on a reality TV show? Kardashians, step aside, the Gibbs family has arrived.
Brandon Gibbs, 27, whose family lives at Hummingbird Acres Farm in Dinwiddie, is a participant in the TLC reality series. “90 Day Fiancé.” The show tracks Americans who have started online relationships with people who live in other countries, and follows the progress of their relationship when they finally meet and spend the next 90 days deciding if they can turn that relationship into a lifelong commitment. It’s a guilty-pleasure type of show that highlights the clash of cultures between here and “overseas.”
I had never watched the hit show until Season 8 premiered this past Sunday. However, my editor/content coach is a fan and found out that the latest season of the series featured someone from our area. So he asked me to write a story about it.
Gibbs is the first Tri-City resident to be on the show. And since the show usually does not leave many stones unturned, it was obvious that not only he but his parents, Ron and Betty Gibbs, would also “star” with him.
What is ’90 Day Fiancé’ all about?
Couples from different countries meet, fall in love, and then, have 90 days to decide if they will marry and stay together once they secure a K-1 visa.
A fiancé visa allows the engaged partner of a U.S. citizen to enter the United States, as long as they get married no more than 90 days later. Then, the newly married spouse can apply for a Permanent Residence card aka green card based on marriage.
The show is one of TLC’s biggest hits and has spawned numerous spinoffs, including “Pillow Talk” where former participants are filmed watching and critiquing the current show.
I personally would never even consider online dating, so I was intrigued to be able to interview Brandon to find out what sparked this out-of-the-box, explosive, life event.
Brandon, a Virginia native, resides with his parents.
“Nobody’s mentioned yet about the fact that I do actually work a full-time job as a pest control technician,” said Brandon. “I just do a lot of work on my parents’ farm. I try to pull my fair share of work around here since I’m living here.”
According to Brandon, he and his family moved to Dinwiddie from Powhatan when he was around six years old.
Did Brandon know about ’90 Day Fiancé’ before starring on the show?
“I had heard of it and think I watched some kind of YouTube video which talked about what it was about,” said Brandon.
At that time, Brandon was engaged in a long-distance relationship with a 26-year-old go-go dancer, pageant contestant, and bodybuilder.
Brandon thought “90 Day Fiancé” mimicked his relationship with Julia and he told her about it saying, “Look at this show. It’s exactly like what we’re doing. It’s crazy.”
According to Brandon, Julia started watching the show and ended up absolutely loving it and told him, “You have to write to them.”
“I was like…I don’t know if I want to do that, but she talked me into it,” said Brandon. “Next thing I knew…we were doing it.”
How did Brandon meet his Russian fiancée?
According to Brandon, his friend living in Russia introduced Julia Trubkina to him via a video chat.
“She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen,” shared Brandon, beaming while being taped by the TLC crew. “I couldn’t stop thinking about her. My first message to her was, ‘You look like my future wife.’”
Did Brandon give online dating any thought before meeting his future bride?
“No, I never would have done anything like online dating,” said Brandon. “I was like…what’s the point? That’s not going to work. It’s too much to go through and everything.”
Brandon shared with me that he was kind of hesitant to pursue a virtual-type relationship when he was first in contact with Julia even though he fell in love with her instantly.
“With a little nudge from my friend saying, ‘Come on just do it,’ I did it and started talking to her and really got to know her,” said Brandon. “At that point, I went to visit him and Julia because they were in the same country.
“I figured…I’m gonna go meet her and the worst-case scenario is I get to spend a week with my friend and have a great time somewhere cool,” said Brandon. “So, I went for it.”
What did Brandon’s parents think about him traveling to Krasnodar, Russia to meet someone as a possible love interest?
According to Brandon, his parents were skeptical at first and questioned his decision saying, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“At first, they were against the idea, and in fact, Mom was very against me going and meeting her,” Brandon shared. “She got so worried. I told her I would be fine, and that I was going to do it. I was determined to go.”
Brandon’s parents weren’t the only ones concerned about him flying halfway around the world to ask someone to be his girlfriend.
“After I made up my mind to go, everyone was kind of like, ‘Are you sure? Be careful. Be careful.,'” said Brandon. “Oh my God, I heard the phrase – be careful – from so many people.”
I was surprised to hear Brandon’s mom’s reaction to him going to Russia to meet a gal since I watched a TLC video clip where Brandon shares, “My parents got so worried that they signed me up for a dating app for farmers.” Brandon’s parents laughed and fist-bumped.
“Ya, we did,” said Brandon’s mom, Betty.
“We just tried to give him a push,” added his dad, Ron.
Apparently, his mom used an adorable picture of Brandon with a mini-goat as his profile photo.
“Thank God I never had to use it, because I met Julia,” said Brandon.
Within weeks of meeting Julia, he flew to Russia to ask her in-person to be his girlfriend. Then, they applied for a visitor’s visa for Julia to visit the U.S., but that proved to be fruitless.
After five months and one meet-up, Brandon invited her to Iceland where he proposed to her.
What was Julia’s first impression of Dinwiddie County when she arrived?
“Julia’s a city girl so farm life is very new for her,” shared Brandon. “It’s been very different for her. Her world’s kind of been upside down. Not only moving to a different country but moving to a farm over city life. It’s been crazy for her.”
I immediately pictured the late Hungarian-American actress Eva Gabor wearing a feathered boa and jewels on the 1965-71 American sitcom “Green Acres”. Gabor’s character Lisa Douglas uprooted unwillingly from an upscale Manhattan penthouse apartment with her prominent, wealthy husband to a fictional farming community named Hooterville.
The Kardashians have nothing on the Gabor sisters
Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva Gabor were among the original celebutantes with nearly 20 marriages between them, and even two to the same man!
“When Julia and I went shopping, she saw a beautiful dress and said, ‘Oh my God, I love that.’ and I’m like…well, if you want it, we can get it. And, she’ll be like, ‘What am I going to wear it for…the pigs?’,” shared Brandon with a chuckle.
“Julia thinks the countryside is definitely beautiful, but it’s not her cup of tea,” added Brandon.
Where did the youngest couple of Season 8 who were sleeping in separate bedrooms according to the house rules go on dates while living on the farm?
“We’re in North Dinwiddie, and since there aren’t a whole lot of places, we went to Old Towne Petersburg,” shared Brandon. “We did some filming in Wabi Sabi.”
According to Brandon, they also shot footage at Good Vibes Pub and Grill off of Crater Road in Petersburg.
How did the local eateries like having the celebrities dining with them?
“It was extremely exciting having the TLC crew at one of my restaurant locations,” shared Wabi Sabi owner David Payne. “Brandon and Julia shared the Volcano Roll and the Mango Caliente; they liked the hot and spicy.”
Payne was notified in advance that the engaged couple desired to shoot footage at one of his other restaurants in Old Towne Dj’s Rajun Cajun, however, it was closed on Mondays.
“They wanted a live setting, so it was shot at Wabi Sabi,” said Payne. “They also shot a scene at Old Towne Events for the final taping. It was a lot of fun!”
“We were very honored to have Brandon and Julia filmed here,” said a Good Vibes representative. “We’ve all known Betty and Ron for a while, and Brandon was our pest control guy.”
Good Vibes couldn’t remember exactly which appetizers they ordered but definitely recalls making them rainbow shots to drink.
How did Brandon’s place of employment handle his needing to take time off to pursue this life adventure?
“I hated doing it because it makes it tough for them, but they were pretty understanding,” shared Brandon. “The company is really, really great about it and kind of work with me.”
What did it feel like appearing on a reality show?
“It definitely throws a spin on something that’s already so different and kind of crazy,” said Brandon. “So, it makes it, even more, a crazy experience.”
How did Brandon feel about sharing the experience on television for all the viewers to see?
“When Julia wanted to do this, I was kind of like…uh…ya, I don’t know. I was very hesitant about it,” shared Brandon. “I definitely am not the type of person to want to pursue this on my own. So, Julia pushed me to do it.
“I’m still getting used to the idea,” added Brandon. “I’m not somebody who craves the limelight.
“Julia might be a little bit different. She loves the attention,” said Brandon while laughing. “Me, not so much.”
Brandon’s mom chalks it up to a surreal experience.
“I don’t think it fully hit any of us until we started seeing the show trailers and commercials,” said Betty. “The first time you see yourself on national TV, it is very strange!”
Does Brandon recommend this type of relationship adventure?
“I would say absolutely do not because it looks like…we just decide we want to have this relationship, fill out a form, send it in, and she’ll be here the next day,” explained Brandon. “That is not how that works. It is a long process.
“While trying to get Julia here, we almost ended things. It got really tough sometimes. Long-distance relationships are hard enough, but sometimes we ended up in limbo waiting for some kind of government things, and it drove us nuts,” said Brandon. “So, no I would honestly not recommend it unless you know that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
What happens in Episode 1?
Ron and Betty establish house rules and question whether the love birds are practicing safe sex.
The producer asks Brandon, “What’s wrong with condoms?”
“There’s nothing wrong with condoms, but they’re definitely not as fun,” responded Brandon with a sheepish grin.
Brandon also shares how the image of perfection he had for his fiancée was shattered while they were visiting France with both sets of parents during their third meet-up.
“I call her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because one minute she can be a total angel and the next minute she could explode,” Brandon described his fiancée.
The financial hardship of pursuing a K-1 visa is also discussed.
Brandon wishes to thank his parents for being so great while going through the whole visa process saying, “It’s almost like they went through it with me.”
90 Day Fiancé airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT on TLC.
You can catch the show by watching episodes on Hulu, purchasing them on Amazon Prime Video, or by logging into TLC’s official website, live-stream the series on Philo TV, Directv, Sling TV, Fubo TV, or YouTube TV.
I may need to tune into Episode 2 since the preview showed Julia taking a pregnancy test with Brandon by her side.
Kristi K. Higgins is the trending topics and food Q&A reporter at The Progress-Index. She refers to herself as a “Social Butterfly: who flutters here, there, and everywhere. Have a news tip on local trends or business? Contact Kristi (she/her) at [email protected], follow @KHiggins_PI on Twitter, and subscribe to us at progress-index.com.